5 Benefits of EMDR Therapy in Addiction Treatment

5 Benefits of EMDR Therapy in Addiction Treatment

Drug and alcohol addiction can negatively impact your health and well-being. It is a complex condition that requires comprehensive treatment and continuing support. When people receive tailored, evidence-based treatment, they can begin to move forward into a healthier future. 

Addiction involves people’s genetics, environment, mental health, behaviors, and more. Treating only the physical aspects of an addiction is not enough to ensure long-term changes. Instead, people must receive specialized therapies to identify and heal the roots of their addiction. 

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an innovative therapeutic approach that can help people work through stress, anxiety, and trauma that may contribute to substance abuse. 

This article will explore the benefits of using EMDR therapy in addiction treatment. You will learn:

  • How EMDR therapy works
  • The benefits of using EMDR in addiction treatment
  • How stress and trauma can contribute to addiction
  • Where to find addiction treatment and support programs

Contact The Living Room specialists to learn about our holistic approach to addiction treatment. We are happy to answer your questions and help you schedule an intake assessment right away so that you can begin your recovery journey. 

What is EMDR Therapy?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a therapeutic technique that may be helpful in treating people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Mental health practitioners may also use this therapy to help people process traumatic events and those who struggle with addiction with co-occurring disorders. 

People may participate in EMDR as part of a substance use disorder (SUD) treatment program or during outpatient sessions. People typically attend eight therapy sessions over the course of several weeks.

During sessions, a trained therapist guides clients through a series of eye movements while the client focuses on a traumatic memory. Some mental health practitioners believe this process can change how a person’s brain stores memories, and that it can reduce the trauma’s impact on a person’s functioning.

How Do Stress and Trauma Contribute to Addiction?

Addiction is not only a physical condition. It also affects a person’s emotions, behaviors, relationships, and every other aspect of their lives. 

Drug and alcohol addiction often has deep, complicated roots in a person’s past experiences, behaviors, genetics, and more. One factor that may contribute to substance abuse and addiction is trauma.

Trauma is a lasting emotional response to a frightening, highly stressful event. Events that may lead to trauma include:

  • Surviving a natural disaster
  • A car accident
  • Childhood abuse or neglect
  • Experiencing a sexual or physical assault
  • A life-threatening medical condition or emergency
  • A loved one’s death
  • Living in a war zone or military combat

People who experience a traumatic event may live with disruptive symptoms for a long time afterward. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms include:

  • Chronic stress
  • Nightmares
  • Hypervigilance
  • Anxiety
  • Avoiding anything related to the traumatic event
  • Depression
  • Flashbacks

Some people may self-medicate with alcohol or drugs to dull these symptoms or simply cope with daily life. People who experience the symptoms of PTSD are at significantly increased risk for substance abuse and addiction. 

5 Benefits of EMDR in Addiction Treatment

Mental health therapists and EMDR participants report a wide range of benefits to using EMDR in addiction treatment. Here are five of the most significant benefits of this type of therapy. 

Reduces PTSD symptoms

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can negatively impact a person’s functioning and quality of life. Symptoms like flashbacks, avoidance, nightmares, and intense anxiety can keep people from living healthy, fulfilling lives. 

Some mental health experts believe that EMDR can help people re-process traumatic experiences and reduce their impact on the way they feel and function. 

Limited treatment

EMDR fits well into both inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment programs because it occurs in a limited number of treatment sessions. Unlike other therapeutic approaches that may be open-ended, EMDR occurs in eight sessions that span several weeks. 

Lower costs

In some cases, EMDR may cost significantly less than other types of therapy. Because it happens in a set number of sessions, costs may be lower than other approaches. 

Covered by insurance

Insurance companies often cover effective therapies used to treat addiction and mental health conditions. Insurance plans will likely cover evidence-based therapies, including EMDR, during addiction treatment and aftercare programs. 

No side effects

EMDR is a non-invasive, medication-free approach to treating trauma. Participants may experience some fatigue after sessions, but typically do not experience additional side effects. 

People who cannot or do not wish to take medications may prefer to try EMDR therapy during addiction treatment programs

Along with medications, mental health treatment, and other evidence-based therapies, EMDR may help people process and move past trauma and addiction. Using coping skills and finding ongoing support can help people prevent relapse and stay committed to a healthier, sober lifestyle. 

Find Treatment Now

If you or someone you love struggles with substance abuse, trauma, or addiction, you are not alone. Take the first step of your recovery journey by getting the treatment and support you deserve. Reach out to the specialists at The Living Room now to learn about our holistic treatment programs.


  1. National Institutes of Health (NIH): A FLASH OF HOPE: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy
  2. American Psychological Association (APA): EMDR therapy for trauma-related disorders.
  3. American Psychiatric Association: What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
  4. Journal of Neurology & Neuromedicine: Scientific Evaluation of EMDR Psychotherapy for the Treatment of Psychological Trauma Summary: Scientific evaluation of EMDR psychotherapy
  5. Springer Publishing: The Effectiveness of EMDR With Individuals Experiencing Substance Use Disorder: A Meta-Analysis

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